Who is Using the SBHT?

Trail use surveys were conducted 2012 – 2015.

  • Trail use by age shows a higher proportion of users in the age range of 50 – 70.
  • About 80-90% of the users are groups of family and friends.
  • 85-90% of trail users rode bikes on the trail.
  • 70% of trail users drive to the trailhead but 27% rode their bikes to the trail.
  • About 66% of bike riders wore helmets. We strongly encourage the proper use of helmets, and hope to see that percentage grow in coming years.
  • When asked to rate the trail and their trail experience from 1 (bad) to 5 (best), 43 out of 44 people rated it a 5. One person rated it a 4.
  • Most people spent 2 or more hours on the trail.
  • Most trail users said they contributed to the local economy – usually by purchasing goods at local stores or food at local restaurants.
  • About half of the people surveyed said that they came to Sleeping Bear Dunes because of the trail.

85% of trail users are Families and groups of friends

We asked people who rode through Glen Arbor if they followed the official bike connector route. With a limited sample (21 users), we saw 57% took the official route, while others took alternate routes.

Read the complete results of trail user surveys.

Automated Trail Counters

Our early estimates of trail use were based on a few trail use counts and surveys conducted in late August. To extrapolate these numbers to annual trail use estimates require many assumptions.

In October, 2014, we installed 3 automated trail counters and in July, 2015, we installed 2 more.

The automated trail counters from Trafx (www.trafx.net) were recommended by TART, who has had very good experience with them on the TART trail in Traverse City. Their experience demonstrated high reliability (even with the extreme cold of last winter), ease of use, and excellent data management tools.

Trail Use Data from TRAFx Counters

  • All data is in raw counts. Most people are counted at least 2 X (They go out and come back). Some people will be counted by more than one counter while they are on the trail if they do a long ride.
  • For an estimate of year to year changes in use, we look at the two counters that have been installed the longest (Dune Climb and Glen Arbor @ Forest Haven Rd).
    • Dune Climb 2015 = 37,286 counts; 2016 = 42,334 (14% increase)
    • Glen Arbor 2015 = 47,503; 2016 = 55,404 (17% increase)
  • Total counts by year (Assumption: Trail Users = Total Counts/2)
    • January – December, 2015 = 127,504  (Trail Users = 63,752)
    • January – Sept 7, 2016 = 133,888 (YTD Trail Users = 66,944)
  • For year to year comparison: Total counts Jan – September 7 (Assumption: Trail Users = Total Counts/2)
    • January – Sept 7, 2015 = 106,073  (Trail Users = 53,036)
    • January – Sept 7, 2016 = 133,888 (Trail Users = 66,944)
    • Total Count increase = 26%)
  • You can see when the storm hit by the dramatic decrease in trail usage in August, 2015.
  • There are a couple of spikes in trail usage. These high count values occurred over several hours in the middle of the day, and we think it is due to groups of people using the trail for events on those days.

The first set of graphs shows total counts since installing the first counters in October of 2014. We now have 6 counters with the newest one being installed in July, 2016 at the Kelderhouse Cemetery. Heaviest use of the trail is at Glen Arbor (Forest Haven Road) and the Dune Climb.

The following graph shows a comparison of trail use at each of the counters after the newest counter (Kelderhouse) was installed in July, 2016.


The following graphs show trail use during the busiest time of the season – June 1 through September 8, 2016.


The following graphs show trail use during the winter (ski) season – December 15, 2015 through March 15, 2016.

If you have any questions or would like to see the full count data set, click here to send an e-mail request.

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